Awreet! Mr. Used to Be bridges the boppier side of jump blues to a thick harmonic sound from singer/harp player Chris O'Leary. Whereas labelmate Matt Hill is a marauding wolverine (here), O'Leary puts on the suit, spats, and tie, tilts the cheaters, and boogies like a far more florid version of the Blues Brothers, piano tinkling as though constructed of stars and whiskey glasses, rhythm unit chugging, horns as Gatsbyishly seductive as a zoot suit in pale midnight lampglow.
O'Leary's handling of his harp is fat, phat, and where it's at, thick as a Georgia afternoon buzzing towards a sweltering horizon promising gin joint delights and non-stop git-down. And that, cats 'n kitties, is precisely what's delivered. Need I add that Mr. Used to Be is released under the Vizz Tone label? Of course not, it's assumed. And wait 'til you catch Bruce Katz on an equally ferocious swirling organ. This baddest actor trips right back to O'Leary's days with the great Levon Helm...with a difference.
Grease Monkey Mama invokes the 50s nature of much of Mr. Used to Be, not only in the titling but likewise snapping with updated period swing and spit, guitarist Chris Vitarello taking center stage in a cut of hopping chords kept down, simple, and inescapable, echoing what Wes Montgomery and the six-string jazzbos were doing on the other side of the fence. But this six-stringer can also burn like Elvin with Butterfield (Blues is a Woman and elsewhere), stoked with red hot coal and gasoline.
O'Leary's voice is thus well buttressed, because anything less than a return of the leonine growl and testifying shout would betray the man's fierce energy. You'll hear the interchanges from the first track title song until the Tchoupitoulas closing, clipped Mick Rogers-ish lines joined by warbling vocal chords and a thick greasy harp. There's a ton of class throughout, but it's the tarnished shine of fallen angels grown more than worldly. Wouldn't have it any other way.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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